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What is Acute Coronary Syndrome ?

Acute coronary syndrome is a condition wherein the blood flow to the heart is suddenly reduced. In acute coronary syndrome, a feeling of chest pain is the most common sign, and is akin to the chest pain experienced at the time of a heart attack. Normally it is diagnosed in hospitals and in emergency centers.

Quick and early detection of acute coronary syndrome is treatable. Treatments for acute coronary syndrome differ depending on the symptoms and the general health conditions.

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Symptoms of acute coronary syndrome

The signs of a heart attack and the symptoms of acute coronary syndrome are similar. Any delay in treating acute coronary syndrome may result in a heart attack.

Some of the common symptoms of acute coronary syndrome are:

  • Pain in the chest that is comparable to sensations of tightness and burning in the chest region
  • Pain in other regions of the body like in the jaw or the upper left arm
  • Vomiting
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Heavy and sudden sweating
  • Nausea

Symptoms of a heart attack differ depending on sex, age and the presence of diabetic like medical conditions in a person. Few unusual signs of heart attacks are:

  • Pain and heart burn
  • Unusual fatigue
  • Abdominal pain
  • Clammy skin
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting
  • A feeling of restlessness

Causes of acute coronary syndrome

  • Slow building up of fat deposits or plaques in arteries of heart usually results in the development of acute coronary syndrome. The plaques make the arteries narrow and pose many problems for the blood to pass through the arteries. Due to the above condition of atherosclerosis (buildup of plaque), the heart is unable to pump enough oxygen rich blood to the body. This is what causes the chest pain and heart attack.
  • Coronary artery disease is another term related to acute coronary syndrome, which refers the damage done to the heart arteries by the condition of atherosclerosis.
  • If any of the plaques present in the coronary arteries happen to rupture, then it may cause a heart attack. In most cases, coronary artery syndrome develops after the rupture of a plaque. Blood clot is formed on the site of the rupture, which blocks the blood flow through that artery.

Risk factors of acute coronary syndrome are similar to those of other heart diseases. Risk factors of acute coronary syndrome are:

  • An increased age of 45 and above for men and 55 and above for women
  • High blood cholesterol levels
  • High blood pressure
  • Decreased or absence of physical activities
  • Underlying type 2 diabetes
  • Hereditary history of chest pain, stroke and heart diseases
  • Cigarette smoking

Treatment of acute coronary syndrome

Treatment for acute coronary syndrome differs depending on the signs and the condition of the blocked arteries.

Doctor may prescribe medications for getting relief from chest pain and to improve the flow of blood through the heart. These medications may include:

  • Aspirin: It reduces the blood clotting and helps the blood to flow through the affected arteries. Aspirin is recommended by doctors for patients suffering from acute coronary syndrome.
  • Nitroglycerin: Giving nitroglycerin for angina and chest pain helps to widen the arteries temporarily, and thus improve the flow of blood from and to the heart.
  • Thrombolytics: It is a clotbuster drug that dissolves the blood clots and eases the flow of blood in arteries and thus saves the heart from damage. The chance of survival is greater if this drug is immediately given after the heart attack.
  • ACE and ARBs: They are the drugs administered for all types of heart attacks to ease the blood flow from heart. These medicines help to lower the blood pressure and can avoid a second attack.
  • Beta blockers: At the time of heart attack, this drug helps the heart muscles to relax, reduces the blood pressure, slows the heart rate, decreases the pressure on the heart and increases blood flow through the heart. It also helps to reduce the chest pain and the damage to the heart.
  • Calcium channel blockers: This drug helps to relax the heart and improve the flow of blood. Calcium channel blockers are administered, when the symptoms continue to persist, even after taking nitroglycerin and beta blockers.
  • Clopidogrel: This drug prevents clotting by preventing the blood platelets from sticking together. But it may increase the risk of bleeding. Individuals who are taking the drug should inform the medical team about it, particularly if an operation is to be performed.
  • Cholesterol lowering drugs: Commonly used statins drug is used to reduce the cholesterol levels and thereby making plaque deposits lesser. Its aim is to bring down the low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol levels below 100 mg per deciliter (mg/dl).

If the medications do not help in restoring the blood flow, doctors may go for the following surgical procedures:

  • Angioplasty and stenting: In this procedure a mesh tube is left inside the affected portion of artery to keep the artery open for blood flow, after compressing the deposits against the artery walls.
  • Coronary bypass surgery: Under this procedure, an alternative route is provided for blood to go around the blocked artery.
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